The Proper Advocacy of Human Sexuality

Two recent polls can find little to agree on when it comes to the way we should educate our children about human sexuality. There should be one thing on which we all can agree on, however.

The Deseret News today reports that

Two dueling polls say they have the definitive word on how parents want schools to teach their children about sex.

"Parents prefer abstinence education 2 to 1," boasts the headline on the National Abstinence Education Association Web site. A recently released survey of California parents, however, finds that even self-identified "very conservative" parents are overwhelmingly in favor of "comprehensive sex education," which the study defines as abstinence plus contraceptive information for students who decide to have sex.

The abstinence only crowd and the comprehensive crowd could learn from each other if they would only listen. One thing is for sure, however.

No one should ever advocate for children and youth to engage in sexual activity. A child should never have to contemplate an abortion. A child should never have to engage in the poignant thoughts that accompany having tampered with the monumentally important power of procreation. A child should never have to raise a child or face the agony of putting one's progeny up for adoption because he or she is an immature and unfit parent. Children are resilient--they can recover from such mistakes--but to encourage any of them to play this sexual Russian Roulette is a form of abuse.

I agree that some abstinence-based programs are not practical, and that they should be more comprehensive. Besides teaching children that they are ultimately free to choose how to exercise their sexuality, we should also have them know that they are not always able to choose the consequences of their behavior. We should teach our children about sexuality from the perspective of the intimacy of and emotions that accompany the act and the problems that occur when such a profound power is misused. They should be taught the statistical evidence that heterosexual couples who remain faithful to each other gain the greatest satisfaction out of life, to include their sexual union.

It is only partially true that "they're going to do it anyway," as some people claim. To this claim I repeat one of my most important statements. No one should ever advocate for children and youth to engage in sexual activity. Much as children engage in far less drug use when we warn them of the dangers of drug use, so would they engage in far less sexual activity if we warned them of those dangers as well.

Saying that we can't teach them abstinence because they're going to do it anyway is tantamount to advocacy of child sexuality. It is as handing them a lighted match while they are standing in a vat of gasoline.


  1. The claim that children are resilient is often bandied about, although, there is little empirical evidence to suggest that it is true.

    Some children that engage in youthful sexual activity will ultimately be fine. But studies show that the majority of kids that have sex suffer lifelong problems; psychologically, physically, or both. Although a few seem to get away with “playing the field,” study after study confirms that sexual activity outside of a committed monogamous adult relationship produces long-term psychological problems and destroys the types of human relationships that are most psychologically satisfying to humans, regardless of whether one uses protection or not.

    But let’s take the childhood resilience claim to the next level — to the next generation. Studies show that children born and/or reared outside of a committed monogamous relationship are substantially more prone to psychological and sociological problems than those born and reared in such a relationship. A vast amount of public resources are used to deal with social ills that spring from extramarital sexual relationships.

    Children may be resilient in many ways, but the impacts that ensue from less than optimal sexual relationships cannot be denied.

    The problem is that many do deny this. How do you propose to implement the teaching of the kind of values and responsibility that you discuss in this post when some sexual education course designers and educators do not agree that sexuality is “a profound power,” as you suggest it is? Some see it as merely a biological function — a pleasure that under certain circumstances initiates a pregnancy.

    You will soon be treading into the concept that humans are different than other animals, which some consider to be an unacceptable dogma. They will tell you to take your bigoted morality and get out of the public sphere.

    Children should receive comprehensive sexual education. But your definition of that phrase differs substantially from the way it is defined by some that are in positions to determine what that phrase means when it comes to teaching sexuality to your children.

  2. For yet another view on the value of sex education, see Naomi Riley's discussion of the matter. She contends that lack of education is not the main reason there are unwanted pregnancies. She even claims that lack of education in values is also not the main reason for unwanted pregnancies.


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